Why Your Small Business Should NOT Engage Bloggers

Today I had not one, but three, three emails from friends and relatives who were all asking the same questions.

Which bloggers should I approach?
How should I approach them?

My answer to them in short form is, “You shouldn’t.” Bloggers are wonderful, small business owners are fabulous, but if you’re in the business of making sweet potato fries, my suggestion to you is that you make the best sweet potato fries you know how to make, and talk about it on your own site. In the first person. The folks at Label Daddy have done a great job of this, and you could certainly use them as an example of “how to”.

I almost always respond to these emails with, “I would caution you from reaching out directly to bloggers, but I would recommend ___, ____ or ____ to help you reach your goals. I like to recommend three different people (or agencies), in part because if things go south I’ve recommended a FEW, not just one. I also like to recommend three because I’ve worked so many amazing teams that I really do think my friends and family can benefit from more than just one of them.

If you absolutely insist on DIY blogger outreach do NOT blame me when it explodes in your lap.

Who to contact: Bloggers who want to be contacted probably have an “about me” page. If you hear a blogger’s name crop up over and over again in multiple circles you might want to think about contacting them, however, nothing is guaranteed. Once you have identified a blogger that is of interest to you, it’s time to make sure they are relevant to the discussion you want to have. Quantcast, Alexa and Compete will give you some data about bloggers. Recently I heard that larger firms are using comscore only, very few bloggers are currently found on comscore.

When you plugin the bloggers URL to any of these services you may or may not get results. If a blogger is hosted on a wordpress.com or blogspot.com site, it is virtually impossible more difficult to get data regarding their readership. You may have to ask the blogger to self report, or you can ask them to give you access to their stats.

For a blogger like myself, who is self hosted, it’s relatively simple to get demographics and data. If you go to Quantcast you’ll see that my audience likes politics, science, parenting, fashion, home & gardening, auto news & info, science and technology, babies and books quite a bit more than your typical internet user.

For example my readers are 1.7 times more likely than the typical internet user to visit categories and sites that relate to science, nature, parenting, fashion and cosmetics. If you were looking to buy advertising here I’m pretty sure a line of organic skincare would be a good match, right?

Further, check out my demographics. Y’all are old, educated and rich. Blogger outreach should take the audience into consideration, not just the writer. I’m writing to men and to women, I’m also writing to people who have been college and to grad school. There’s no need to dumb down a message here.

Similar information can be found at Alexa and Compete. Most of it is somewhat reliable, but I must stress the somewhat. Quantcast counts approximately a third of my traffic, as does Compete, Alexa has been more reliable at times, but everything seems to be an approximation.

With the amorphous nature of web reporting how would a sweet potato fry maker know who to target? Without being a part of this wacky little word, it’s very complicated for a small business to dive in.

I always suggest using twitter as a place to listen. If you are listening to what people are saying about you, and about your industry, you just might be able to have a conversation with them that is meaningful.

Understand that bloggers are not marketers. Few bloggers will have passion for your sweet potato fries, and of the three that do, only one will have reach that is relevant to your market.

Do you have a plan to deal with a blogger who does not like your product? Do you have a plan for the blogger who sees your pitch as spam? What is it that you expect to get from your relationship with a blogger? If you think that blog posts can directly translate into sales, forget it.

My question for you, small business owner, is: do you want to spend your days trying to find the blogger who cares about sweet potato fries, or do you want to spend some time making great fries?

I’ll continue my practice of connecting great people.

Facebook Comments


  1. I have mixed feelings about this post. Yes, you should focus on doing what it is you do best. But, if I made sweet potato fries, I would also seek out food bloggers and get to know them. I would focus on building relationships with them through relevant comments, following them on Twitter and otherwise getting to know them and letting them know me.

    Then, you don’t have to worry about being considered spammy. And that small time blogger today might be the next big thing by the time you request that review.

  2. Very well written Jessica. As always. I should add if you are going to approach bloggers, then be able to answer their questions without getting defensive and pissy. Bloggers have their own interests, and they certainly aren’t your sweet potato fries. They might want to know whether you buy organic sweet potatoes, or have a breastfeeding policy for employees and customers, or want to know your super secret ingredient, or whatever.Don’t get defensive just because they ask challenging questions

    Having just had the most painful series of emails with the regulatory person for a new product launching in the US who accused me of cyber bullying and being rude just because I asked a relatively simple question about the regulatory status of the product, I can tell you that my feelings on the product are completely soured.

  3. Have a local blogger night, Foursquare tasting, Yelp Elite pick the next menu item, host a social media breakfast, social media club, Youtube Shorts night, Cater Sweet potato fries to Co-worker locations in your neighborhood. There that should hold you for a while. Now I’m hungry, where’s a good place to go?

  4. Jill

    You’re going to have to dumb it down for me…. how do you actually know if I’ve attended college or grad school?
    How do you know my interests?
    I’ve never filled out any form with this information.
    Or maybe I have?
    Just Curious.

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  6. I couldn’t disagree more. Small business owners don’t have the capital that big businesses do, so they need to be extra conservative about spending, but they also need folks to know about their business. As a blogger *and* a small business owner, I’ve used both ads and blogs as promotional tools. Ads don’t work well but well-read blogs increase traffic. It’s just a fact. And it’s inexpensive – just a sample and a giveaway item – and it’s a promotion.

    Small business owners need to know how to do *everything* well since there’s no “staff.” They should be working night and day making the “sweet potato fries” AND nurturing the growth of their business.

  7. Jessica, thanks for spreading this message. When I launched my Spanish t-shirt line in 2005, it took me a year to realize that spending time on getting press or blog posts was practically full-time work. Blog reviews from excellent sites in my niche were gold, but reviews outside of my niche were not worth the effort, really.

    So, I launched a blog to compliment the business, Bilingual in the Boonies. It has been satisfying personally and professionally, it provides constant hits for the business and it has led me to other business opportunities.

    As a former journalist, I also do PR and marketing for small business clients and I always, always tell them working with the right bloggers and web publishers is the key. They don’t need 50 so-s0 mentions, when three excellent, well-targeted ones will do. A blog doesn’t have to have thousands of readers to deliver a business a wealth of hits and sales — but the product/service must be of great interest to those few hundred, or even few dozen readers.

    As the publisher of two blogs (also have Tiki Tiki Blog), I am more apt to listen to, and get excited about, a unique well-targeted pitch than a generic press release sent to everyone in the blogosphere.

    I also tell small business clients they are so fortunate to be growing businesses in an age when they have the ability to deliver their message directly to their customer using blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. (Remember, I was a reporter and I ignored lots and lots of small business owners who wanted a story in the paper…now, they can just write their own and hit “publish.”)

    And, while blogging and social media take effort, it doesn’t have to take away from their focus … just compliment it.


  8. You make some really good points, but I think you also help promote the anxiety a lot of people have about approaching bloggers. And I don’t think that’s necessary.

    Personally, I think it’s rather simple: If all you do is spam bloggers and hope they cover you, you’ll either get ignored or mentioned negatively. On the other hand, if you become a genuine member of the communities you hope to reach then (with some strategizing) the rest will fall into place.

  9. If your title hits some people over the head, so be it. In basic terms, if you don’t know your blogger, and therefor their audience, you might as well write your own blog.

    It makes no sense to ‘pitch’ a blogger your product our story when blog sites are communities and success is dependent on your engagement.

    Fortunately, for our our agency, not many “get it” which makes our job much more success-focused for our clients :)

  10. I am torn on this one. As a former employee of a very small family run business I want to tell my dad to reach out to local bloggers. On the other hand his business is such a niche market he’d be hard pressed to actually find an audience on any blog that made it worth his while to advertise there. He’s not on the web at all because it’s just not worth the time and effort for him. It just all depends on the business and HUGELY on the traffic locally if you don’t ship a product IMO.

  11. Anonymous

    I agree with you and I dont in the same time! Intereation is everything now days! And if sweet potato talk moved from the store counter to ones blog – that is fine. From another point of view – one cannot make a sweet potato blog long lasting enough -as the subject is too short. I d recoment short news style blogging for small businesses!
    it was a pleasure reading your article.

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